I hate horror- movies, books, TV shows, you name it. If it is horror, I avoid it like the plague. Somehow, the fact that Lauren Myracle’s newest novel, Bliss, is a horror story escaped me. Never mind the fact that the title is written in blood on the cover. I managed to miss all the not-so-subtle clues. In fact, I was thrilled when I received an ARC from the publisher thinking it was just the book I needed. I wanted something light and fluffy, something fun and beachy to read.
I was wrong.
Myracle has crafted a true horror story, in the tradition of Stephen King. Bliss is the child of hippie parents. She’s moved around a lot, living in basements, various apartments, and most recently a commune. She loves her life on the commune, but is uprooted when her parents flee to Canada to avoid Nixon’s policies during the Vietnam War. Bliss is left with her wealthy grandmother in recently-integrated Atlanta.
Suddenly, everything she knows seems wrong and different. On the commune, health and hygiene were basic. Bliss never considered that the rest of the country might think differently. A bra becomes a necessity, make-up part of her daily routine. But the hardest part for Bliss is the fact that blacks and whites are still so separate. On the commune, her best friend was African-American. In Atlanta, her grandmother has a “negra” housekeeper. There is only one “token” black student in her prep school. And the KKK is alive and well.
Before she leaves the commune, Bliss’ best friend warns her of a vision she had- two girls that will not be good for her. Bliss ignores the vision, assuming it’s nothing. However when she begins attending her new prep school, she begins hearing a haunting, evil voice around a certain building. Her new friends seem harmless enough (though Bliss has a hard time navigating the world of high school girls), but the voice haunts her. Then, one of her new friends begins acting crazy and sympathizing too much with the Manson family (the Tate-LaBianca murders have just occurred) and romanticizing a rumor about a girl who killed herself on campus when the school was still a convent.
Myracle’s newest novel includes pieces of the Manson Family murders and the resulting Tate-LaBianca trial, as well as the realities of racism during that time. Bliss is a believable narrator and you sympathize with her complete confusion when it comes to this new world called high school. The novel also includes various snippets from another character’s diary, in between Bliss’ chapters. You see the beginnings of this character’s psychosis take hold and eventually take over their life. I spent most of the book trying to predict who that character would turn out to be.
The story is frightening. Too much of it rings true and seems all too realistic. The horror aspect is horrific, and threatened to give me nightmares (I’m a baby)! I can’t wait to recommend this to some of my students who love the Cirque Du Freak books. This is definitely not a G-rated book. I would probably give it a PG/PG-13 purely due to the horror.